The idea of the teacher acting as a researcher strikes me in an "of course!" sort of way. Of course the teacher should be a researcher! Who else knows the classroom better? Unfortunately, this is not necessarily an "of course!" kind of thing. In class we have discussed that, often, the people in charge don't know what they're in charge of, and the people doing the research are not the people in the classrooms. That being said, I think of teachers as being somewhat like scientists in their respective fields. Scientists do research and publish their findings for the betterment of their community, and I don't think teachers should be seen differently. After all, their "field of study" is the developing human mind. Is there anything more important?
The first article I will be exploring, regarding the role of teacher as researcher, is "Developing a Definition of Teacher Research
." This article begins with a beautiful quote from Marion MacLean, "Teacher researchers have faith in their students; they know too much to give up on them." This is so important, and students know the difference when a teacher is caring and engaged, vs. when they are doing the job for a paycheck. I can attest to this from the perspective of a student-- the best teachers I have ever had are the ones who are willing to be open, vulnerable, and walk alongside me.
This article defines teacher research as "inquiry that is intentional
, and contextual
" (1). This is a bit of a wordy definition and, as Martha and Debra also noted via Hypothesis, doesn't seem to differentiate "teacher research" from any other kind of research. However, further into the article, the author (forgive my lack of noting a name, I will come back to this later, but I'm not sure who wrote this??) further unpacks this definition, as beginning with a commitment to the examination of teaching and learning, followed up with enacting change in the classroom, based on the findings. The teacher researcher studies what is important to them because, likely, it's an issue that they've noticed in their own classrooms. Further, it is, as noted in this article, "a public endeavor" (2). When teachers work together. they "intentionally shift from a private perspective to a more open, public perspective in order to encourage challenges to their understanding" (2). This is always an intelligent way to conduct research, especially in a field in which collaboration can be so helpful to so many.
Next, I looked to "The Teacher as Researcher,
" by Marian M. Mohr. Mohr makes a strong case against the traditional researcher as someone who isn't generally involved in the classroom for the long term, and I thought it was funny when she spoke, rather wryly, of her own ventures into her role as researcher. Mohr's article made me consider the idea of thoughtful and intentional teaching, going into the classroom with the goal of learning alongside the students. I thought the example of the misspelling of "aggressive" was an interesting case study, and effective, considering that all of the students got that word right when tested. When students realize a teacher doesn't know everything, I think it may make the teacher more relatable. The last line summed it up well, "I am convinced that the model of a student that I provide for my students to observe will help them to become better students themselves." This is something I think that all teachers should keep in mind, and I certainly shall when my time comes.
Finally, I looked at "A Teacher-Research Group in Action
," by Sandra R. Schecter and Rafael Ramirez. Off the bat, I saw that this article was published in June of 1991. so going in I know that the statistics are going to be over two decades old. This may prove to have nothing to do with the research, but it's something I like to take note of.
From the introduction, I am inclined to feel that this study went the distance to include a wide age range, which certainly works in it's advantage. Additionally, it appears to be highly comprehensive-- the participants in this study needed to passionate about being involved:
This is quite a bit of work! Continuing through the paper, I liked the description of the five segment seminar, it seemed engaging and purposeful. The only thing I wasn't completely on-board with was the concept of no syllabus whatsoever. I think that too much structure can be detrimental especially when it's used to the point of superfluity, however I think some structure is necessary and helpful.
Having read Marian Mohr's approach, I understand what the group facilitator meant by using her approach as the format for the seminar that he led. Schector and Ramirez cite the facilitator, Mike, as saying that he wanted to "experiment...to see what works and what doesn't" (4). This certainly does seem to be done in the spirit of Marian Mohr's approach, in terms of experimenting to see how the participants were to respond to a more down to earth model (i.e., Mohr broke the traditional "all-knowing teacher" model to come before her students as a student, in a comparable way this seminar broke the traditional structured model in order to try something new), but I do also think that this comparison is a bit of a stretch.
The overall vibe that I gathered from the findings of this article was that "process is more important than the product" (5) and that open-ended questions, thinking, and time were key. I wasn't surprised that some of the participants weren't happy with the structure (or lack thereof) of the seminar, but I did find find it interesting that one participant noted that he appreciated the relaxed atmosphere for the ability to work on something that was truly his to be proud of, but admitted that "I wasn't as productive as I had been" (6). I wonder if I would have felt any differently, because I do value a degree of structure. When there are deadlines, you have something to work towards, and this is instilled in us from a young age. I think this would be a hard habit to break.
Regardless of the lack of structure, it appears that this did, in fact, have an overall positive effect on students. As I read through, I felt that I was getting a sense of excitement and invigoration from the teachers' responses, as if they were "visibly" encouraged by the community and ready to go out and share with their peers and students. The third section: "Teacher-researcher knowledge" reintroduced an unfortunate point that we have discussed in the past-- the teacher not feeling up to par with the researcher (traditionally, a university scholar). One interviewee "doubted she had the 'expertise' to undertake the indicated analyses...[and] several participants flt that their studies lacked sufficient rigor because they did not use sophisticated quantitative methods as did, they believed, university-based scholars" (8). I may be misunderstanding this, but what I read here is that teachers who are, effectively, in the trenches with their students, do not feel that their contributions are as valid as those of "scholars." This is a perception that must be broken and, as Schector and Ramirez note later on, "articles found in academic journals have little relationship to mastery of elaborate experimental methodology" (9). Teachers have a lot to offer as researchers in the learning community, and I'd be interested to read a more updated version of this study to see how things have progressed since it was published.
If a teacher loves his students, he wants to help them. He wants to put as much as he possibly can out there, in order to give them the best of himself. A teacher researcher is primarily responsible to these students and that, in my eyes, makes the role of teacher researcher a labor of love. Teachers have a lot against them, and it takes a special person to want to take on that role.